Musical Review: “Mamma Mia!” Stage Cast Breathes Life into the Classic Story

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Village Theatre presents, “Mamma Mia!” The Issaquah stage run has ended but never fear because the Everett stage will run the show from July 15 until Aug. 7. 

“Mamma Mia” was originally on Broadway in 2001. It didn’t grow into the cult classic it’s known as today until its movie adaptation with an all-star cast that included Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, and Pierce Brosnan. The story revolves around Sophie who is about to get married and wants her dad to walk her down the aisle. However, there’s a slight hitch in her plans; she doesn’t know who her dad is. She secretly invites three of her mom’s old boyfriends to her wedding and things start to unravel. The biggest draw to the show is that it’s told using “ABBA” songs, like the widely popular “Dancing Queen” and “Take a Chance on Me.” 

Village Theatre did a good job with the show. The sets were colorful and well designed, and Donna’s hotel exterior was particularly well-executed. Flowers decorated the whole exterior and it looked like it had come straight from a Greecian island. Though, the dock and beach left something to be desired. There was only a small wood dock set-piece on the right part of the stage and nothing else. The first two songs “I Have a Dream” and “Honey Honey” felt lessened by the emptiness. The lighting designs were not strong enough to combat the lack of set on stage. If there had been a follow spot used as a stark contrast to the rest of the stage lighting it might have worked better. 

But where the set lacked the cast made up for it. Though, at times for some of the actors, it felt like there was trouble staying in character while singing. As if they were going through the notes and movements, but not recognizing the value of the words. However, I watched the show opening weekend, and that may have just been due to opening day nerves. 

Varinique Davis, who played Sofie, had an absolutely stunning voice that raised goosebumps and elicited whoops from bolder audience members. The same went for Lisa Estridge who played Donna, whose rendition of “The Winner Takes it All” was the best I’ve ever heard. Both Davis and Estridge chose to show off their vocal prowess throughout the show with a plethora of riffs, runs, and growls that added life to the characters in a way that I didn’t know was possible. Needless to say, they made the characters their own and boy did it work. There were changes made to the composition of the songs which also worked quite well. Higher harmonies were added to all songs that had a full chorus and it added something special to the production. It did feel as though the casting was mostly centered around vocal skill and then acting and dancing came second. This might not work for a lot of other shows but for this one, it ended up being just fine. The dancing used a lot of repetitive or similar choreography but it wasn’t to the point where it was exhausting to watch.

Overall it was a good adaptation of “Mamma Mia,” it did justice to the original story while feeling and sounding new and fresh. The cast and crew breathed new life into the story.